Friday, December 20, 2013

Looking forward to Christmas 2013

It’s the holiday season!! I’m so excited this year. We are keeping it pretty simple and unpolished here. We are trying to be intentional and I think that is why it has been so pleasant.

Our church family is going through the advent candles and each week is themed according to the Advent week: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. It has actually been pretty challenging for Joel to pick out themed songs, but each week comes together nicely with the sermon, songs, and candle lighting. It has been really wonderful, actually.

At home, the simplicity of our celebrating and looking forward has been refreshing and everything is a really helpful teaching moment.

The tree itself doesn’t have a lot of significance right now other than what it will become on Good Friday like we did last year. We got the tree early, so it sits in our house with lights and a few ornaments. But we will do most of the decorating on Christmas morning as part of our celebration of Christ’s birth. The tree will be fully decorated on Christmas morning and stay decorated through Epiphany, at least. This is also pretty convenient with little kids. We’ll see how it goes, but so far, I don’t mind having an undecorated tree until the big day.

Last year's tree. I posted HERE on facebook about it.
(You can also see our previous Jesse Tree behind the decorated one.)

This year's tree - the bottom of the lights are out. :-(

Our crèche set currently sits with two cows and the manger. It is waiting for Christmas Eve when Mary and Joseph come. We will read part of the Christmas story on Christmas Eve so that Noah can put Mary and Joseph in the crèche set, and we’ll read the rest on Christmas morning and the boys can bring the shepherd and two sheep to the scene. On the Epiphany, 10 days after Christmas, we plan to get creative and bring wise men to their “house”.

Cows and an empty manger

We had a mini St. Nicolas Day holiday on December 6th (the official St. Nicolas Day). We read about St. Nicolas the night before, and Noah woke up to a few little things in his shoes. We want the boys to grow up knowing where some of the Santa tradition started and who St. Nicolas really was – a God loving man known for his generosity. St. Nicolas purportedly helped a poor family in the middle of the night (attempting secrecy), so we use this to explain the overnight surprise gifting. It was fun for Noah and we got to talk about being generous and helping others.

Throughout the month, I’ve been using two Jesse Tree devotionals to gradually work through and create one that our family will use in the future. (I am admittedly behind a few days with Noah.)  The first day, Noah and I went out in the woods and uprooted a small tree and some moss to put in a plant pot as our Jesse tree. In years past, we’ve used a Charlie Brown tree and printed ornaments, but the tree was a little too small for so many ornaments, and I wanted something more interactive than premade ornaments. Noah and I have been coloring an ornament; I’ve been gluing it to cardstock and hanging it on a tree. It seems to help Noah focus and is giving us tons of opportunity to talk about celebrating Jesus’ birth on Christmas and everything leading up to it.

Jesse Tree 2013

Noah would do a little and then ask for my help coloring the rest.

Isaac's contribution is a bite mark out of the side of this one.

I am using a free Jesse Tree devotion I found on A Holy Experience a couple years ago. The blogger on A Holy Experience, Ann Voskamp, now has a published advent devotional that follows the Jesse Tree called The Greatest Gift. I am also using the devotions from Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the coloring pages found there. I prefer the method the RCA uses for devotionals for the whole family, but I like that the Ann includes more days (I’m aiming for 27-28 total) and I’m able to use a little of what she writes to add to the conversation. I am mainly using them to learn all the traditional symbols and passages used since we are still pretty new to using a Jesse Tree.

I like using a Jesse Tree because it attempts to follow a structure based on a Biblical timeline, Jesus' prophesied lineage, instead of a grab bag of topics that might be found in an advent devotional. I like that it is pulling from the whole story of scripture and so includes the Old Testament.

So our Holiday season for 2013 looks something like this:
Jesse Tree throughout advent seasonSlightly decorated Christmas tree throughout advent season.Crèche set with cows and manger throughout advent.St. Nicolas Day on December 6th. Talk about generosity, helping others, and where the Santa tradition came from.
Christmas Eve, read scripture and add Mary and Joseph to crèche set.
Christmas Morning, wake up to Jesus in the manger, read scripture and add angel, shepherd and sheep.
Decorate the tree and have a breakfast “feast” in celebration.
Head to extended family celebrations.
Keep tree decorated and crèche set out through epiphany.
Read about the wise men coming on Epiphany and change up the crèche set a little to represent the wise men coming to see Christ when he was older. Possibly exchange a few “wise men” gifts on this day as well.

So, that’s about it. It doesn’t seem terribly complicated, and hasn’t been so far. It’s been very relaxed and fun. Our kids don’t have extravagant expectations, so they seem genuinely enthused to do whatever “special” things we have planned.

And I know I’ve told you already, I really like Noelle Piper’s book “Treasuring God in our Traditions”(link is to free pdf). The other resources we’ve used:

The Bible (obviously ;-) )
The Story of St. Nicholas from Voice of the Martyrs
RCA resources: Jesse Tree devotional, and free printable coloring ornaments.

And for other articles, you can check our my Christmas Pinterest board:


  1. I love how intentional you are being about your traditions. Thanks for sharing them.

    1. And I really loved your post last year on your gifting plans! We might use something like your wise men gifts on Epiphany. :-)




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